One of my former pastors at Church by the Sea, Jeff Tacklind, opened up a May 2010 pastoral staff meeting by passing out Wally’s ministry leadership lessons.
See….. Pastor Jeff just returned from attending Wally Norling’s memorial service. Wally Norling served as an EFCA pastor and district superintendent for 60 years, weaving an untold influence across the EFCA (Evangelical Free Church of America) movement.
During Wally’s memorial service Jason Whalen, Senior Pastor @ First Baptist Church, Elk Grove, CA, read aloud the letter he wrote that talked about the leadership advice Wally gave him when he was trying to decide if he should become the Senior Pastor at Elk Grove. Pastor Jeff was so moved by the wisdom that he felt compelled to share it with our pastoral team.
There is something about learning from a dude who served in ministry for 60 years. I, too, was moved by Wally’s wise words, which is why I wanted to invite my readers to read Pastor’s Jason letter as he shares wisdom from Wally. My favorite lessons are #4, #10, #16 and #20.
This is the letter that was read by Jason Whalen, Senior Pastor First Baptist Church, Elk Grove, CA at Wally Norling’s Memorial Service on Saturday, May 8, 2010:
You have often heard me mention the name Wally Norling. Often around our table we have referred to “Wally’s Wisdom” related to how we treat one another, approach our critics and live in a manner worthy of our calling. I can’t begin to tell you how much this man’s life has impacted who I am and what I am called to do and be. He was instrumental in my move to Elk Grove helping me see beyond the temporary to the eternal.
I just received word that Wally went home to be with the Lord on Sunday night. Andrea and I were heart broken but filled with hope and gratitude that he is with the God he loved so much! I have had occasion to know many wonderful followers of Christ but in terms of wisdom, longevity, Christ-likeness and graciousness Wally had no equal!
A few weeks before moving here, after we had made the decision to come, I sat with Wally in his home and asked him this question, “Wally, I’m not sure I’m ready for this. Tell me what to do!” I wrote down what he said to me that day and I carry it with me every where I go, every meeting I attend! I felt led this morning to record some of those gems and share them with you in hopes that Wally’s legacy of grace, selflessness and commitment to
Christ might challenge and encourage all of us.
The “big four” that Wally mentioned to me again that day that I have shared previously with you are the following:
1. Don’t be defensive
2. Move toward your critics
3. You have nothing to prove! Your best is good enough for God it will have to be good enough for everyone else
4. Don’t take yourself too seriously
Here are some other gifts that Wally gave me that day:
5. Avoid Hitting the wall
6. Preach the Word well. Exegete the text. When people leave knowing the text that is success. God has promised to bless his word. Get the intellectual part done early in the week and then sift the text through your heart.
7. Always assume good motives in others because it’s better to be gullible than cynical
8. Be honest and transparent
9. When criticized, find the truth and MOVE ON!!
10. Personal relationships are the biggest issues in most people lives, speak to them often!
11. Don’t be the hero of all your illustrations, people will relate more to your failures than your successes
12. Project grace to everyone, people will be to you what you project to them they’re going to be
13. Don’t be overworked
14. Don’t let your mind play tricks on you
15. Attribute good motives to people
16. Be scrupulous about answering/returning phone calls and emails
17. Be a friend to your staff and let them know you will be loyal to them. Keep the staff supported and encouraged
18. You don’t have all the answers
19. Remember that 99% of conflict happens from misunderstanding not malice
20. Allow those who lead with you to ask you hard questions and don’t be defensive
In recording these leadership lessons I am reminded of how much I need to learn and grow knowing that I’m failing in virtually all of them. But I am also excited that God is a healer and a restorer and in these truths we all have something to aim for. Let’s bring these words to life among us shedding what keeps us divided and embracing what unites us! I can only hope that as we walk the road ahead we will remember to place others before ourselves, believe the best about each other, take care of each other and put all our hope, trust and identity squarely on our God of grace!
Jason Whalen, Senior Pastor
First Baptist Church, Elk Grove, CA
1. What were your favorite lessons?
2. What one really struck home? and Why?